Chawanda backs Warriors as ‘golden generation’
AS the Warriors brace for their third appearance at the African Cup of Nations, one of their legendary captains Ephraim Chawanda has backed Callisto Pasuwa and his men to impress in Gabon and challenged ZIFA and the country’s football family to help the “golden generation live their dream’’.
The Rock of Gibraltar, as Chawanda was affectionately known, was the leader of the Dream Team under the late Reinhard Fabisch.
This week Chawanda spoke exclusively to Herald Sport, sharing his sentiments on the Warriors and the state of the domestic game.
Chawanda said while his Dream Team gave Zimbabweans “something to dream about, this golden class is living the dream.”
“Under Fabisch we performed at a time when the morale of Zimbabweans was very low due to the economic situation and what the Dream Team brought at that time was relief and happiness. We played with our souls to please the souls of Zimbabweans,” he said.
“I would like to congratulate Callisto Pasuwa and his players for qualifying for AFCON and just like our time they have performed when the morale of Zimbabweans is low due to a tough economic situation but they have managed to actually live the dream.
“While congratulating the team I would also like to make the administration aware of the damage that was done during the Dream Team era where a lot of pressure was put on the coach and there was a lot of interference in the technical operations of the coach.
“We should remember that the Dream Team was on the verge of qualifying and were one game away from qualifying for the World Cup finals in 1994.
“But because of that interference things went askew and we ended up losing both the qualifications for AFCON and the World Cup and if we are not careful we could destroy what the squad has built.
“We have a very strong squad that has a huge potential to go and impress in Gabon and I believe that if we all bring our positive contributions to the coach and his boys, they will make us proud.
“But I am saddened that there is too much negativity around our Warriors so much that a friend of mine even laughed at me in Botswana and said you Zimbabweans a funny people, instead of celebrating that you are the only Southern African country at AFCON you are fighting each other.”
Chawanda warned the ZIFA leadership to be wary of some people he alleged could try to steal the limelight that has been brought by the success of both the Mighty Warriors and the Warriors.
“You can see that there are some people who now want to steal the limelight for the national teams’ successes but my question is why fixing something that is not broken,” said Chawanda.
“Our efforts right now should be directed at giving the coach enough support in his preparations…we should concentrate on getting enough resources to support the players even before they go to Gabon.
“There have been incidences of players threatening to boycott games because of lack of contracts or agreements on bonuses and appearance fees. These are things I feel should be done yesterday. It is not only a ZIFA problem but a national problem and it deserves the attention of everybody who loves football.”
Chawanda, who is based in Botswana, said he was also not satisfied with the slow pace by ZIFA in drumming up support for the Warriors ahead of the Gabon tourney.
“I think there is a lack of the drive to create that huge hype about our qualification. We have three months essentially to prepare the Warriors and there is some background activity happening but we must be aware that the coach and his players need our support and our motivation now and not in December.
“In December the big guys who matter in industry would have gone for holidays or finished with their budgets so we have to do things right now,’’ said Chawanda.
Now 51 years old, Chawanda is working a programme to try and help revive the junior game in Zimbabwe having spent his coaching career in the lower leagues of South African football as well as in Botswana before stopping early this year.
“I have stopped coaching. One of the reasons is that that all former footballers want to become coaches.
“It is time I move into the administration of the game or other related industries of football which deal with welfare and well-being of footballers and just any other related matters that can bring back a good spin into Zimbabwean football.
“I am working on coming back to do these programmes from Zimbabwe.
“It is an unfortunate situation that we put all concentration on PSL teams and senior national teams and we are hoping that all work at grassroots should be done by academies of which some have questionable intentions and some are mismanaged through lack of expertise’’.
Chawanda implored on ZIFA to reclaim control of the junior development programme.
“We as football loving people of Zimbabwe should find a way of reviving junior football with the structures coming under ZIFA as it was done before.
“I think we the football people should stand up and complement ZIFA in their work and not expect the association to do it alone. Teamwork is not just on the pitch but it should involve everybody’’.
Chawanda attributed the lack of quality strikers in the domestic Premiership to the absence of proper development structures in the game.